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What are ‘happy hormones’ and how do we use them for wellbeing?

The hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies are responsible for moderating our moods

Our genes play a large role in our day to day levels of happiness and lifestyle factors also greatly affect our sense of wellbeing.The good news is that even if you are predisposed to a downbeat temperament, there are simple steps you can take to boost your happiness hormones and experience a brighter side of life. 
Here are five of the main hormones and their chemical messengers and ways to boost them.
 
1. Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for your brain’s reward system. You’ll recognise it as that feeling that spreads through your body when you receive praise for a job well done. Acknowledge and reward yourself for your day’s achievements to cultivate this feeling of wellbeing regularly.

Dopamine also drives pleasure seeking behaviour. This can lead us into trouble if we are seeking pleasure in unhealthy pursuits, such as alcohol, drugs or junk food. Seek out activities that you find pleasure in and have a good impact on your life.

2. Oestrogen
Oestrogen plays a big role in women’s mental health, protecting you from anxiety and irritability. Low levels of oestrogen can correlate with low mood and this hormone. Oestrogen levels decrease during the menopause and lifestyle habits, such as smoking and over exercising can also reduce it.

Balancing your workout schedule with all important rest days and gentle forms of exercise, such as Yin Yoga, can help to protect your oestrogen levels. The stress hormone cortisol can interfere with the function of oestrogen, so make time in your week to de-stress with an activity you find relaxing.    

3. Oxytocin
Oxytocin is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone and is often called the hormone of love. The release of oxytocin is connected to sense of wellbeing and satisfaction with life. Being in the company of loved ones and showing kindness and gratitude towards others helps to stimulate this snuggly, feel-good. We all know that warm feeling you get after doing a good deed. It’s a win, win situation. Showing kindness to others really does improve life for everyone.

4. Progesterone
Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain. It helps you to sleep well and prevents anxiety, irritability and mood swings. Deficiency of this hormone can lead to varying levels of anxiety. Levels start to drop as women transition into menopause and this can be accelerated by excess stress and unhealthy foods.

It may sound simple but caring for yourself with a balanced, healthy diet is the best way to is the best way to maintain your progesterone levels. Those of us entering menopause may wish to discuss supplementary options with their doctor, which could include hormone replacement therapy.

5. Serotonin
Serotonin is an important chemical neurotransmitter, which can affect mood and social behaviour among other functions. An effective and natural way to boost the serotonin in your body is to exercise regularly. Even a brisk walk around the block can be enough to boost your mood.